January 2, 2005 / No. 3235
Dear radio friends,
Our Lord Jesus Christ calls all Christians in this coming year to be watchful servants. This is the word that He speaks in Luke 12:35-38, a very appropriate word for us to consider at the beginning of a new year. We read: “Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; And ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately. Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them. And if he shall come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants.” Jesus is calling you, as a child of God, in this coming year to live as a watchful servant.
From the broader context of the Lord’s words, we see how well He knows our hearts. He knows that we are always ready to be filled with fear of every sort. Perhaps your church has few members, and upon your heart is the burden as to whether you are going to be able to continue in this coming year. Or, perhaps as individuals and families, you are looking toward a multitude of concerns in the coming year — difficulties in your way — and then you see your own weakness and your unworthiness.
Jesus gives us assurance with one golden sentence in verse 32 of Luke 12: “Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” He knows that we are always inclined to be overcome with anxiety, especially over those things that belong to the earth, the present time; those things of what we shall eat and what we shall drink and what we shall put on. And He says to us in the words before verse 35, that “your heavenly Father knows what things you have need of.” He calls us, rather, to seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added unto you. The meaning is very clear. Jesus is saying to us at the beginning of this year that we must be ready to give up anything, we must deny ourselves anything that stands in the way of our salvation. We are to set our affection on the treasures of salvation in Jesus Christ. Then, in the words of our text, He says to us as we are seeking the kingdom of heaven and as we are therefore freed from besetting anxiety, that we must also then live as those who are servants watching, ready for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ in all of His glory.
If we are seeking the kingdom of God in our life, and if we desire to live a Christian life in this coming year, then we must live like servants who are expecting their master to return. Our life must be spent with an eye toward His return. That, says Jesus, is the mark of His child in this world in this coming year of our Lord.
He says to us that we must be found doing nothing that would cause us to be ashamed when He comes. Rather, we are to live as a watchful servant. That is the word of Jesus Christ to every Christian as we stand at the beginning of this new year.
Really our Lord is speaking here in a parable. He says, “And ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open to him immediately.” He is speaking of a great lord with a great house. Imagine a plantation filled with many servants, and the lord (or owner) of this great house (plantation) leaves to go to a wedding, leaving his servants responsible in his house to have everything in readiness when he returns. The length of the wedding feast always varied. There was, in the day of our Lord Jesus, no set time that the servant could say, “Well, this is when he will return.” They did not know. The Lord says it could be day or night. In verse 38 we read “And if he [that is, the Lord] shall come in the second watch [that is, twelve midnight], or come in the third watch [that is, three or four o’clock in the morning], and find them so, blessed are those servants.”
The Lord is saying that our calling to watch for Him as His servants is a calling that is 24/7. We must be ready always. We must watch. We must focus on the return of our Lord. That must be in the forefront of our minds, so that when He comes we are found ready. It is very obvious that He is speaking to us of His return, the return of Jesus Christ in the last day to His church. We — Christians, the church of God, the house of His servants on earth — must be ready, watching, waiting, so that when He appears we may open to Him immediately.
Notice that there is something very interesting here. Our Lord says that He is gone from us, attending a wedding. Most often, when we think of the marriage feast, we think of the end of time when Jesus comes. Revelation 19 tells us that there will then be the marriage supper of the Lamb and His bride. And that is true. But you and I should also think this way: that our Lord has earned the right for Himself and for His people in glory now to be in attendance at a wedding feast right now. The Lord is saying to us in this passage that those saints who died and whose souls were brought into glory are with Christ feasting, in a wedding celebration. What joy, what comfort, that ought to give to our hearts as, perhaps, we enter into this year yet grieving over the death of a dear son, a dear husband, a dear child of God. Because His work is so complete, in glory we enter into His perfect celebration. That does not wait until He returns on the clouds at the end of days. But already now, when we meet Jesus in death, we shall be part of a glorious wedding feast of everlasting joy and bliss.
But our position as the church of Jesus Christ this day is that we are on earth and we are waiting for Him to return to us. He calls us His servants — literally, His slaves. The Lord has filled up His house with purchased slaves. Oh, yes, as the church and as believers, we are called in the Scriptures the bride of Jesus Christ, the spouse. Everything that He has is ours. But we are also called His servants. That looks at us as we are on the earth with a work to perform in His name. We are servants in the house of Jehovah God, purchased by the blood of His own Son, so that we might serve Him.
Do you hear that? Do you hear that in your soul today? We are not the slaves of the devil. You know, there are only two possibilities — you are in the service either of the devil or of the blessed Lord Jesus Christ. You are not autonomous; you are not an independent agent; you are not self-governing. The Scriptures declare concerning us that we were the servants of sin (Rom. 6:17, 18). But, thanks be to God, we have become by grace the servants of God in Christ. That means that we serve Him in love, not grudgingly. The service of Jesus is not, “Well, I’ll pretend to be a Christian this year and I’ll probably even go to church. I suppose I’ve got to do that. But I hate it! I don’t like Him. I don’t like this whole Christianity stuff.” Oh, no. A true child of God finds echoing in his heart this year: “I love the Lord, the fount of life and grace. I am His servant; bound, yet free.” As His servants, we want Him to come back. We cannot really be perfectly happy if He is out of sight.
This is our position in this coming year. Therefore, our calling is: Be faithful to the Lord Jesus. You must be ready for His return. You must not be living as if He is not watching you. There are many Christians who feel that Christianity is of little worth to them. They live their life thinking, “What can I get away with? I’m not going to do what He wants, but I’m going to do what I want. Besides, His return is way off in the future. I don’t need to concern myself with that.” The true Christian wants his life, his heart, his family to be in order, to be in that proper spiritual order for the Lord. That means that every day we want to have our life inspected by His eye, by the eye of the Lord whom we love. We want every day to clean the muck out of the stalls of our heart — the muck of lust. It means that as faithful servants in His house, we want to take out the window cleaner and wash off the scum of jealousy from our eyes. And it means that we do not want His house to become cluttered with all the objects of greed, but we want to pick them up and use them and set our heart upon Him.
Especially, we must be careful how we treat each other. The Lord, in verses 42-48 of Luke 12, goes on to amplify a specific aspect in the life of His servants. He warns us of those servants who will be found beating their fellow men- servants and fellow maidservants. The Lord says to us, “It is important how you treat each other. It is very important how you live with your wife as a servant of Christ. It is very important how you live in the church, that you do not live with jealousy and envy and gossiping and backbiting. It is very important that, when the Lord returns, He not find you with your hands around the neck of a fellow servant but that He finds you faithful and watching.”
How are we going to do that? The Lord emphasizes here three things.
In the first place, let your loins be girded about (v. 35). It was customary that when a servant wanted to work unencumbered and efficiently, then that long robe, which went down to the ankles, which would be in the way of a slave or of a servant mopping the floor or hoeing the corn or chopping wood, would be gathered up around his waist — he would gird up his loins. That means that you must be prepared to do the will of your Lord in this coming year. I Peter 1:13, “Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
What does the Lord call you to do in this year? The answer is: nothing new. Your Master’s will. Obey and follow His will. Love Him and do all things out of that love for Him and the neighbor for His sake. Be content. Be committed that you put away what cumbers you, what gets in your way — your sinful selfishness, your self-pity, your self-justification, your jealousy, your greed, sins of every sort. Get rid of them and go forth to serve Him in this year.
In the second place, we must keep our lights burning (v. 35). The emphasis here is not upon each Christian’s personal light, but, literally the Lord says, “and the lights burning,” the lights of His house. Those lights of the great house in Jesus’ day always required tending, always required maintenance, so that the house would always be giving forth light. Especially that was the case in the night. The lights of God’s house, so necessary if we are to live as those who are waiting for Jesus, are: 1) the preaching of the Word of God; 2) the sacraments; and 3) Christian discipline. The house, the church, must be ready for the Lord’s return. The light must be on. The Word must be faithfully preached, for the Word is the light.
That is what will make the church ready for the return of Jesus Christ — the Word. We must grow in the Word; we must grow in the doctrines. We must have an understanding of the faithful statement of those doctrines in the creeds. We must be faithful in our work as children in catechism classes. We must be faithful as members of the church in our Bible studies. We must tend to the things of His Word in the church. Then there are sacraments. These sacraments are very important because they remind us that Jesus is coming. He is coming for us. And there must be the faithful exercise of loving Christian discipline in the church. Then the light is on in God’s house.
In the third place, we are to watch, He says in verse 36, in this manner: “And ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately.” Jesus is picturing the servants of the house waiting at the door, standing on the porch, looking down the road. Think of little children during the holidays. When your little child knows that Grandpa and Grandma are coming and they are going to come the day before Christmas or on New Year’s Day. Where will these children be? They will be near the door. In fact, maybe even they want to play near the door. They take out all their toys and they begin to play by the door because they want to be there, they want to greet their loved ones, when they come. Immediately! Not way off in the corner upstairs in some room sulking as a teenager. Oh, no. But when that loved one comes, you want to be there! You want to greet them. The Lord says that, in His house, everybody’s eye is on the door. Everybody is ready and eager to greet Him when He returns. Oh, they are busy with their duties. But they have one eye directed toward the door, one ear pricked up to listen, to notice that He has arrived.
You see, our Lord is talking about the attitude that we have in this present life. Our Lord and Master has said that He will come. That means that we want to live, right now, before His face. We want to live with an eye to His coming. Where is the eye of your heart this year? What are you looking for? What are you looking forward to? What occupies your mind? What is your focus? Just like, perhaps, when your wife is talking to you or your child comes up to you and she has a question for you, but you just nod your head because you are off somewhere thinking of something else. All right, what is your heart really thinking about for this year? What do you really want? The Lord says, “I am coming.” Do you hear Him? The Lord says, “All of the signs that I have spoken of before My return are being fulfilled before your eyes.” Then you, as one who loves the Lord, will be diligent in His Word. You will want to know the Bible. You will want to know the Bible because in this way you are made ready for Him who hath loved you. And you will live your life ready for Him to come.
The Lord says, “Blessed are those servants, whom the Lord when he cometh shall find watching.” Blessed are these servants. He brings that word of blessedness twice: in verse 37 and in verse 38. Whether or not you are going to be blessed in this coming year is not determined by the amount of things that you have. It is not determined by your health today or what that health may come to in this year. Blessing for this coming year is determined by one point: Are you going to live your life by His grace, ready and watching for Him to come — always watching as His servant, so that your life might be pleasing to Him? Then you will be blest. The slaves of sin are not going to be blest in this year, no matter how happy they may appear. Perhaps they do not appear very happy today with their hangover. They think that they are going to be happy in this coming year by dropping this wife and finding a new one, or by dropping this husband and having whomever they want. They believe that they are going to be happy by being free to do what they want in sin — drunkenness, possessions, glamour. They will get this idea especially as it is portrayed in the movies and on television — these are the happy people who sin and do what they want. But they are not happy — because the curse of God rests upon those who willfully set His way apart from them.
No, blessing will be found in doing the will of God. What will bring blessing for you in this year? That is not a difficult question to answer. This will bring blessing: looking for your Lord’s return and living ready to appear before Him. Then you may have the comfort that whatever comes to you in this year, it is sent by His hand to prepare you for that glorious day when you shall see Him face to face.
At that time, the Lord says that He shall gird Himself and make us to sit down to meat and will come forth and serve us. Oh, what a Master is Jesus! He takes us to glory and He serves us! He says to us at that time, “Sit down at the table.” And He brings out all of the good and pleasant dishes of His salvation. Oh, what glory! That is our Master. By grace, our Master is our servant. He brings to us and serves us for our eternal good.
Are you ready to face this year? Are you living your life in a way that is pleasing to Him? Are you looking at the door? Does your heart go out saying, “Come, Lord Jesus”? Are you ready for Him?
Live your life this year as a watchful servant of Jesus Christ. And hear His Word from heaven every day of this year: Blessed are those servants.
Let us pray.
Father, we thank Thee for Thy holy Word and ask for its blessing now upon our hearts. Be with us in this year and cause that each day we may be found, by Thy grace, faithful, watching servants. Amen.